NATCHITOCHES – Manufacturers in the Cenla region have partnered with Northwestern State University, Central Louisiana Community Technical College and Northwest Louisiana Technical College in offering a groundbreaking hands-on learning program that allows students to take classes and work part-time in sponsoring manufacturing facilities.
A cohort of four students began the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (ATM) program this fall, which allows the student to earn an associate degree from Northwestern State with additional coursework offered through CLTCC or NWLTC-Natchitoches. Students then have the option to continue on to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology at NSU. Program participants must meet eligibility requirements.
“They work part-time and they study part-time,” said Randy Caskey, an instructor in the program. “They are not paid to be in school. They are considered part-time workers who are in school leaning skills relevant to the job.”
Caskey, who comes from the industry side, said there are an estimated 2,000 jobs in central Louisiana that need to be filled.
“Manufacturers are all over this around the country because factories are more and more automated,” Caskey said. “Somebody has to work on that automation. Companies have realized they have to reach back and create their own skilled workforce. Technology changes constantly and we need workers who can keep up.”
The program is supported by the Natchitoches Community Alliance Foundation and is made possible through agreements with five sponsoring manufacturers, Alliance Compressors, RoyOMartin, Pilgrims, Boise Cascade and Stella-Jones. Caskey said students gain not only work skills, but also soft skills in written and verbal communication, dress code and interacting with management.
“They will have to write and give presentations, just as they would on the job,” he said.
“My favorite thing about working at RoyOMartin is the strong belief in faith and family,” said Brinnen Gordy about his job at the Chopin facility. Gordy graduated from Hicks High School in Leesville. “The company also helps the community. RoyOMartin is the safest plywood plant in North America. I’m thankful that they chose me for the Advance Manufacturing Technician Program for maintenance multi-craft skills. Their partnership with Northwestern State University and Central Louisiana Technical Community College allows me to contribute to the plant’s success and earn an associate degree in the process.”
“Brinnen has been very energetic and eager to learn since he has been here,” said supervisor Luke Briley, finishing and shipping manager. “The employees had an instant attraction to his personality and gladly welcomed him as a new team member. I’ve never seen an employee become so instantly well liked by supervisors and team members. All shift supervisors wanted him to work on their shifts, even during his first weeks here. Brinnen always smiles and does exactly what you ask of him. He’s very motivated to progress in this plant through Pay for Knowledge and Skills (PKS) and the Advanced Manufacturing Technician program.”
For more information on the AMT program, contact Dr. Ali Ahmad, head of NSU’s Department of Engineering Technology, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (318) 357-6751; Laurie Morrow, dean of the NLTC-Natchitoches Campus, at email@example.com or (318) 357-2443, or Mike Wolff, director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Louisiana at firstname.lastname@example.org or (318) 581-3594.
The first cohort of students to participate in the Advanced Manufacturing Technology program have begun training. From left are students Melonia McDaniel, Ben Gewin, Brinnen Gordy and Ethan Howell with Dr. Nabin Sapkota, a professor of engineering technology at Northwestern State University, and Randy Caskey, AMT program instructor. The students are employed at four different manufacturing facilities in the Cenla region.